The Spectator

It’s junior doctors – not underfunding – pushing the NHS to the brink

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Yet again we start the year with news that the NHS is facing the worst crisis since its inception. This has a real impact. People who think the health service is in crisis will be less inclined to use it. As we saw over lockdown, this leads to fewer treatable conditions being diagnosed, more ‘excess deaths’ from various causes and a greater healthcare burden for the longer term. It’s a calamity that only worsens.

The NHS is forever on the point of disintegration and collapse. Or, in the words of the British Medical Association, the system is under ‘intolerable and unsustainable’ pressure. Why, then, do so many members of the BMA seem to be determined to make matters worse?

A nation paying for world-class care is given mediocre outcomes by a system that no longer works

It is estimated that this week’s six-day strike by junior doctors will cause up to 200,000 operations and other treatments to be cancelled. Combined with last year’s strikes, nearly a million planned procedures have been delayed or cancelled – at a time when the waiting list for NHS England alone is at a record 7.7 million.

The latest round of industrial action is not only the longest in the NHS’s history, it is occurring at a time of the year when demand on the health service is at its greatest, as a result of the annual peak in viral infections. It seems timed to cause maximum harm. Moreover, this strike follows on the heels of a three-day walkout before Christmas, when one A&E department, in Cheltenham, was forced to close altogether.

This week, a former medical director of Public Health England was warning elderly people to take extra care to keep warm during the strikes, for fear that there would be no bed for them if they did fall ill.

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